I am sitting on a plane with a 10-hour flight ahead of me. It is the second long flight In two days and even my love for flying is being put to the test. I have run out of good movies, to be honest, the selection wasn’t great to start with, my stomach has been feeling dodgy for the past days, and now my eye hurts for unknown reasons. I am just trying to be grateful that I have a free seat next to me and most importantly no one in front which spares me the lecture of day time flight etiquette which clearly dictates that you do not recline your seat unless it is night.
And for a change I am intending to use the time to work, something I usually never do on flights, planes are my happy me-time place. I used to call it a plane bubble, a space where time is suspended, where there is no yesterday and no tomorrow because usually, I don’t quite know which timezone I am flying through in any case. It is my time to watch movies, present flights excluded, to listen to Leonard Cohen, do puzzles on my phone without feeling guilty and most importantly just be. I love flying because I don’t work, completely guilt free too, I don’t think, plan, worry or reminisce – I just am in this little plane bubble and for a few or ten hours everything else is put on hold.
Today is different though because I am on my way to Marrakech to celebrate my 40th birthday with my family. And apparently turning 40 is a milestone I not only have to celebrate but also think and maybe cry about a little. To be honest, I don’t feel like crying at all. I am not saying age is just a number but, to be honest, I doubt I will feel vastly different on Thursday as I feel today, I do hope my stomach and eye will be better but that’s about it. I also happen to think that 40 sounds a lot younger than 39 but maybe that is just something I’m telling myself. Other than that? I am not so sure what there is to think about. In a way it seems rather pointless to worry about turning older because a) there is nothing you can do about it and b) what a privilege to turn older, a privilege not everyone gets.
With that said, I don’t so much worry but rather ponder on this life I live now as an almost 40-year old in a business where everyone seems to be far away from even worrying turning 30 or having to give up the vagabond lifestyle and settled down. Sometimes that makes me self-conscious but those moments are few and far between because mostly I am forever grateful that I got to choose and shape my own life and had nothing but support from my family and friends while doing it. That includes not only my parents who as I quoted in my book ‘pushed me lovingly out of the nest’ – a phrase that my mother is still cross with me for. And who still mark their calendar with my travel dates just so they know where I am at all times. My friends who have always shared my excitement for any new trip, any new story and who didn’t hold a grudge when I once again wasn’t there for a birthday or milestone in their lives. My brother who opens my mail for me and sends me images of any outstanding bills or letters from the taxman. And I guess sometimes I am even grateful for the people who questioned and doubted me because in a way they made me say ‘now more than ever’ and work even harder.
So no, when I look back my life is anything but ordinary, not always easy, never conventional but it is the life I choose and that freedom really means the world to me. So here I am two days short of 40 (can’t give you hours because that would depend on the time zone), not complaining or worrying but rather thinking in a rather joyful way of what there was and planning what hopefully will be.
A friend of mine recently celebrated his 29th birthday and wrote a post of 29 things he is grateful for (I made number 28 which made me quite emotional) and I was wondering if I shouldn’t do something similar. Let’s call it 40 plans/quirks/obsessions you didn’t know about me.
Things I love aka I am slightly obsessed with…
1. Kittens. That one goes without saying. And unfortunately I have the annoying habit to call even grown cats kittens.
2. Wine but also coffee. In fact, since South Africa, I have developed a slightly creepy habit of jumping out of bed screeching ‘coffee’ in a really scary voice which I guess is best compared to Gollum. Honestly, I miss my ex most for bringing me coffee to bed.
3. Diving and the mix of excitement, calm and pure joy it brings me. Also – baby sharks!
4. The smell of ocean. Bah, what a cliche answer but true nonetheless.
5. My blue Birkenstocks. Seriously if I could sleep in them I would.
6. The airport arrival hall, the happiest place on earth. LINK
7. Carbs. And honestly, if you don’t like carbs, I don’t think we can be friends.
8. This song, which ironically enough is called Home and has been on my playlist ever since I started traveling full time.
9. My new hair color which is quite odd considering that for most of my life I had actual nightmares about becoming blonde. But now I love it and don’t think I will ever go over to the dark side again.
10. Getting lost in foreign streets and eventually finding my way.
Things I am grateful for in addition to the aforementioned friends and family…
My friend sent that to me the other day – this is my Abitur ball – can you spot me?
11. Whatsapp to stay in touch with them. In fact, I not only use it to call and leave voice notes but also to send little thoughts, pictures and tokens if I come across something I know the other person will like. I think of it as digital postcards.
12. My passport. I am currently looking at a very tricky visa and can only imagine what it would feel like to go through this process all the time. Luckily my passport is a hit when it comes to visa-free travel.
13. My body. While I am almost 40 and it is far from perfect, it is in decent overall shape and allows me to do a shitload of cool stuff. That is not something I want to ever take for granted.
14. On that note – my fingers deserve special mention because while chubby they can type damn fast. And I guess an honorable mention goes to my parents here who put me into typing class when I was a teenager, something only made bearable by the fact that I was allowed to have McDonald’s for lunch these days but which paid off big time in hindsight.
15. And also related – modern medicine. I wouldn’t still have my dad if it wasn’t for modern medicine and I also may or may not have pooped my pants today if it wasn’t for Immodium.
16. My strong sense of self and the fact that I almost never had an issue to do things my own way. It made me independent and I like that I like my own company so much.
17. Random words and acts of kindness. It can be the smallest thing but is something I truly appreciate and try to pay forward more often myself.
18. My job. I know I sometimes mope and complain about random stuff, I do work hard, but honestly – how lucky (yes, I will use this phrase hated by travel bloggers everywhere) am I?!
19. A free seat next to me on a 10-hour flight.
20. The fact that friends and family are flying to Marrakech to celebrate my birthday with me. To be honest, I think they are only coming because they presume I won’t ever get married and make them come to a destination wedding (which I still totally will!) but still <3
Things I want to do this year – in no apparent order…
21. See a hammerhead.
22. Play in the snow and see the Northern Lights again.
23. Travel to Sudan. I am invited to go diving there and while the logistics are insane and I am slightly terrified because the country is so different to anything I have ever seen, I think that makes it even more worth it.
24. Travel to Venice with my dad. Go in a gondola with him and be cheesy or rather rent a speedboat and be cool like James Bond, drink Campari overlooking the Canal Grande, and stay at the hotel that I was allegedly conceived in.
25. Travel to Japan and get finally lost in translation.
26. Try free diving again. Last time was incredibly hard and it didn’t go very well but I love the concept of being basically a mermaid.
27. Pay taxes. Okay, this one does need an explanation. For the last year since I have been fulltime traveling and freelance writing, things have been well enough but not great in terms of money. Since I can expense most of my travels that means I haven’t made enough money to have to pay taxes. This year is the year where it will happen: a happy bank account and a cheque to the tax man.
28. Fall in love. That needs no explanation, does it?
29. Kiss and laugh more and with that spend more time away from my electronic devices.
30. Make a difference in someone’s life. Preferably on a big scale. I have no idea how yet, but I brushed on it in this post – I want to do something more with my life than just ‘blog’. What this is I have no idea yet but this year I am hoping to find the first spark.
Things that I’ve learned in the past 40 years…
Me turning 40 also means I have very few pictures of me when I was younger digitally. This one is 10 years old when I had just moved to Cape Town. Taken 10 minutes before I had my heart broken – also something I learned: some heartbreaks you never forget.
31. There is never a point to read the comments. You will not learn anything useful, you will never change someone’s mind and reading them is a whole big fat waste of time. I know that now after 40 years, I still have to learn how to put it in practice.
32. If people do something that bugs you, chances are, they don’t do it to bug you – wise words from my wise friend Sy – I should get that tattooed on my forehead.
33. Not everyone will like you because you are not a pizza.
34. Paying forward is a wonderful concept and it works. As does karma.
35. There are people who don’t do calls and others who do. Those two groups will never get along because the call vs. no call issue is just a result of many dividing factors. And if you wonder – I firmly belong in the don’t do calls category. Hearing my phone ring makes me nervous.
36. Being kind is so much more important than being right, something I am still working hard on every day.
37. Gorillas fart. A lot. A random yet entertaining thing I have learned and heard for myself.
38. If you want to have a laugh check out my first blog called Anysroad which I started 10 years ago. It’s tagline was stolen from Emily the Strange: It doesn’t matter which way you go, you will always end up somewhere. It is something I truly believe in. Sometimes we need to stop obsessing whether to go left or right, what will happen will happen.
39. I want to be with people because I love them not because I need them. I think that is the basis for any good relationship whether that is a friend or a lover. Unless you find a person who is willing to take the middle seat for you – that is someone you most definitely need in your life and if you find such a person you should never let them go.
40. You cannot fly to New York without your passport. Do not even try. Always know where your passport is!
So this is me two days before her 40th. What have you learned, loved, done & planned in the last years?